During week one of rehearsals, my most influential teacher and mentor
from my youth came out to me as having AIDS. The exchange I had with him
shaped the way I read Laramie and the way I was able to engage in class.
I could feel myself becoming more withdrawn—hearing about hate crimes
and the affects of AIDS first hand and from someone you love is not
something that many students at Duke deal with, or at least not something
that is discussed.
Last weekend I had the wonderful privilege of
attending a conference for queer students in the Ivy League (I got
special permission to attend) and I heard wonderful talks and attended
workshops from folks who have been fighting what I like to call “the
good fight” since the Civil Rights Movement. Once again, I heard
stories of great loss, and it was heartbreaking to accept that we can
never listen to the tales of our predecessors, who have been killed by
AIDS and hate.
I feel fortunate that while it may be a long time before
we learn the stories of the trans people of color, or the queer sex
workers, or the voiceless youth in something as popular as The Laramie
Project, that we at least have this as a starting point. The
accessibility of Laramie is something that we’ve discussed amongst
ourselves. It is a wonderful tool to bring serious issues into high
schools, to generate discussion and make people of all ages think.
But if I can be brutally honest, underneath all the quietness in class and
lack of self-confidence, I am a politically charged and very angry queer
woman. As Naomi mentioned in her blog post, I often find myself with my
mind blown. Not just after the wonderful opportunity to hear Maude
Mitchell speak and perform, and not just after Angels in America and
speaking with their cast, but also after each and every rehearsal. Acting
is most certainly a growth edge for me and I am awed by the cast and
crew. It is immensely satisfying to drive my anger into my characters.
While I am still learning how to shape and craft my emotions into
characters who aren’t just furious or boring, I leave each night
feeling the great privilege as first a Laramie cast member and second as
a Duke student.
Perhaps this is the morbid way I see the world, but we
must remember that it is through a death that we are meeting one another,
the death of a queer youth with AIDS. Historically, this person’s story
never should have been told but through this loss, we are bound closer